A Little Bit of Crazy

IMG_7518There is nothing quite like the rip-roaring fun of a rodeo, and the Sutton Rodeo at the Black Hills Stock Show was well worth it. The sheer display of skill, strength, and grit makes for one adrenaline-filled afternoon. Roping, steer wrestling, bronc busting, bull riding, barrel racing, and don’t forget the bullfighters and pickup men…I’ve never enjoyed any other sport, but rodeo fascinates me.

And it goes deeper than just the fun or excitement.  Rodeo is unique from other sports in its real-life application. These aren’t skills that were perfected purely for the sake of their sport. These are skills that have been years in the making, skills that require more than just brawn or youth or speed. These are skills that are at the heart of ranch life. Go to any branding or round up and you’ll see these skills on display.

IMG_7858Our culture celebrates youth, sex, beauty, but rarely celebrates hard work or guts. Rodeo is a sport where youth isn’t necessary or demanded, sex-appeal isn’t requisite, and where feminists seem to have no sway. It is a sport where even the champions take tumbles. It is a sport where skill is rated higher than showmanship, and where teamwork, whether with one’s horse or one’s partner, is absolutely essential.  In the sport of rodeo, the ground is level – Bulls and broncs and roping steers don’t pick sides. It isn’t rigged. It is all very refreshing.

IMG_7455It is a sport where patriotism is upheld and veterans are honored. It is a sport where prayer isn’t foreign, and the name of God is mentioned humbly. It is a sport where political correctness takes a back exit. It is a sport where good sportsmanship is expected, from audience and participant alike. No one cheers when a cowboy is tumbled, unless it is to applaud him for his well-spent effort. It is uniquely American, embracing and preserving the rugged independence of the American spirit, the pride in one’s country, the satisfaction in one’s physical work, the willingness to get dirty, and to get thrown once in awhile.

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And at the end of the day, all philosophical and social appreciation of the sport aside, what’s not to love about a little bit of crazy?

Laura Elizabeth

Findings | Here and There

The play of light.

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Simplicity. A scrap of 100-year-old wallpaper and a broken blue Mason jar. Out at the ghost town Spokane.

Laura Elizabeth

 

A little bit of springtime

IMG_7367The first little bit of springtime waked to the world on our windowsill – A beautiful paperwhite, a species of narcissus. My aunt gave the bulbs as Christmas gifts to the families, and ours bloomed, less than a month after Christmas. Springtime is just around the corner!

IMG_7294.1In the middle of January, a 50-degree day is a more than welcome excuse to spend time outdoors. Then again, a 10-degree day with snow is a more than welcome excuse to spend time outdoors. But the blue sky, the warm sun, and the little bit of springtime are irresistible and delicious.

IMG_7176.1We’ve been working hard getting the Miner’s Cabin closer to inhabitable, and week by week, we make progress. The electical was looked at by my dad, Jess’s fiance, and some knowledgeable men from our church, so we’ve been okayed on that. Dad maintenanced the wood stove and we have raided the woodshed up at Grandma’s house multiple times. That old Miner’s Cabin is already becoming a cozy place to spend an afternoon or evening. Nothing warms like a wood fire, that’s for sure.

IMG_7217.1The fire was hardly needed yesterday morning, and before I got the cabin warmed up, it was warmer outside than in. Kashka, the black kitten, found her favorite sunny spot on the porch on top of a pile of old rugs. She basked as only a cat can. What a life a cat leads.

IMG_7321.1Finally, after lunch, Sarah and I set aside whatever we were working on and determined to enjoy the beautiful weather. We love to just start walking, finding ravines we’ve never walked through before, searching out the unseen. Sometimes the very process of seeing the connection between known places has the allure of fresh discovery. We headed towards the highway, stopping to marvel at lichens, old dead trees, pine burls, and other secrets of the winter.

IMG_7339.1When we got to the highway, our property runs down into a little hollow and when a person stands in the bottom of this hollow, the highway is fifteen or twenty feet above. In this hollow, we found a culvert we’d never seen before, with barbed wire over it to keep cows from getting through to the other side. We climbed under, of course, and clambered through the culvert. It is a good sized culvert, big enough to walk through it, bent over.

IMG_7332It was mostly dry, but snowmelt had left a few inches of water in one half of it. We could hear trucks and cars going overhead occasionally, and when we came out on the other side near the Firehouse, we sheepishly and with great amusement saw our mail lady delivering mail at a cluster of mailboxes on the highway. No idea if she saw us or not, but culvert crawling isn’t exactly a “normal” activity that post-highschool young ladies participate in, I suppose. But I find more appeal in culvert crawling than a what the culture expects that young ladies (or young men, for that matter) are to enjoy.

It was wonderful to be out-of-doors, not hampered by scarves, coats, long underwear, mittens, and heavy boots. It was wonderful to taste the sweet air, to smell the savory earth, and to breathe deep of the first little bit of springtime.

Before we know it, winter will be just a memory.

Laura Elizabeth

Hidden Treasure

IMG_7012.1The beauty of winter is of an entirely different character than the beauty of spring, summer, and autumn. If the beauty of the seasons could be described in terms of music, spring, summer, and autumn would be various moods of an orchestral masterpiece. But the beauty of winter would be akin to a wistful flute solo, soaring airy just out of reach of complete comprehension. At the heart of winter is simplicity.

IMG_7020The beauty of winter is in the illumination of those things which, in the green and growing months, are often obscured by the glorious and gaudy, the lush and lavish, the bright and boisterous. Those little things, those hidden treasures, suddenly come to light. When there is nothing else more eye-catching to marvel at, then the colors in a curl of white bark, or the mysterious shimmer of falling snow, or the patterns of frost on a pane of glass can be appreciated for their otherworldly, exquisite simplicity.

IMG_6878A winter hike is a like a search for hidden treasure. Instead of tangible, quantifiable beauty, like a flower, or a green, green landscape, it is the intangible, the play of lights and shadows that make the beauty of winter. To see the beauty of winter, it is necessary oftentimes to look closer, to look deeper into the well of beauty.

IMG_6741.1When I find something in summer that catches my eye, it is often something unmistakable like a blooming flower, or a certain cluster of trees, or a gold-lined autumn path, or the way the landscape shimmers in evening. But in winter, those things that catch my eye are often the things that grow deep in the underbrush, or which nestle close at the base of a tree, or which cling to bare branches, or the way the snow outlines the hillside or the tree or the fenceline, or those moments which I cannot duplicate, like light streaming through a broken jar, or glowing through husks of flowers, or the specific way the snow fell heavy and silent for five minutes during that one snowfall, or footprints in a freshly fallen snow.

IMG_6976.1Hiking yesterday with Roy and Reagan and Anna, the trees were covered over with snow. The beauty was breathtaking. Snow fell from the branches as we walked beneath them in their silence. Snow fell from the sky as we walked beneath the peace and serenity of the clouds. We tried to catch snowflakes on our tongues. The beauty was in seeing the normally unseen, the giant dead pine with pine cones squirreled away inside of it, on a steep hillside we’ve never hiked before, or the rock overhang with crystals as thick as my little finger, or scrambling over, though, under, and between snowy branches, slipping and falling in the snow, crawling through brush that would normally be all but impassible in the summer, shaking snow from branches and sending it showering down all around.

The treasure of winter is the subtlety of its gifts.

Laura Elizabeth

Family Fun

IMG_6646Jess, our Illinois sister, and her fiance Nick were here this past week, and it was fun getting to know the two of them as a couple. Nick has been a family friend for years, and I guess it suddenly just dawned on them that each of them existed and they weren’t as obnoxious as each of them remembers the other being. Something like that. Anyway, they are getting married this year! Just when we think things are settling down, more change happens! Exciting.

IMG_6699Since Nick hasn’t ever had the pleasure of exploring the Black Hills, we made that a priority. We drove Iron Mountain Road, made a pit stop at the ghost town of Spokane, visited Mt. Rushmore, and did the Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park. The weather was cooperative, the traffic was nonexistent, and the burros were obliging. Even the buffalo graced the roadside with their presence. Lots to do that first day Jess and Nick were here! We were all glad to be home at the end of the day.

IMG_6817.1On Wednesday, we enjoyed 50 degree weather in the afternoon and three inches of leftover snow on the ground – What a wonderful combination! Perfect for a visit to our favorite haunt, the Hole-in-the-Wall, and then a walk up Battle Creek until we got to the Mountain Lion Cave. It really was perfect. No ticks, or spiders, or rattlesnakes to watch out for, so we scrambled over and under and around and through to our heart’s content.  Jess got a giant clump of cockleburrs in her hair, which we thought would need to be cut out, but Nick and Sarah managed to rescue her. Nothing like a new pair of eyes along for the hike that renews my appreciation for the beauty I get to see every day. I’m looking forward to springtime, or at least more springtime weather, and watching the magical change from winter to spring.

IMG_7095We took a jaunt down to our property in Pringle yesterday, and the further south we got, the more wintry and windy it got. But we kept our hiking to the ravines and canyons, and managed to be out of the wind for most of the afternoon. We found the way down into Box Canyon, and the perspective was astounding. I’d never seen Box Canyon except from the top, and the size of the cottonwoods in the bottom of the canyon just about took my breath away. I’d love to know how old those trees are, and who saw them when they were just saplings, if anyone saw them. Custer himself might have seen them, when they were already magnificent trees.

IMG_7112.1lrWater seeping through the rocks, probably from the Spring-on-Hill source, but possibly from snowmelt, had created some impressive icicles on the underside of the canyon. Moss was abundant. An owl seemed to be living in one of the old cottonwoods, but I didn’t get a good enough look at him to know what he was.

Jess and Nick leave tomorrow morning early, in order to make it back to Illinois by tomorrow night. The next few months are going to fly by, with wedding preparations and planning and the actual wedding coming up in the spring. It was so good to get to spend time with them.

I love my family.

Laura Elizabeth

 

 

Findings | Treasures in the Snow

Even in the dead of winter, some color hasn’t faded.  IMG_6363.1

These little gems have captured my imagination since I first saw them back in October, I think it was. They’re tenacious, in more than one way.

Laura Elizabeth